Monday, March 3, 2008

9th Annual Chicago Irish Film Festival

“The Wednesdays”, a quick 13 minute film directed by Conor Ferguson, opened the 9th Annual Chicago Film Festival on February 29 at the Beverly Art Center. This hilarious movie is about an elderly couple Mr. and Mrs. O’Leary, who get caught up with the law after taking advantage of having access to ecstasy, and make their Wednesday’s worth while again by indulging in the drug. When the law comes knocking sweet (and very old) Mrs. O’leary doesn’t think it’s a big deal even though the two are discovered to have more than 125 pills. The sweet couple and the ridiculous plot line set the stage for an amazing film fest organized by Jude Blackburn.

Blackburn has spent the last nine years doing everything in her power to bring culture and opportunities to the Beverly Art Center, which she was President of for 8 years, by bringing amazing Irish films, directors, and actors to the south side of Chicago. She even travels to Ireland for two weeks every October to attend film festivals in Cork and Dublin, to find the perfect films and guests for the festival. The 9th CIFF began February 29th and ends March 5th, the fest will include thirty-three screenings and two live concerts. Blackburn has worked hard to put the Beverly Art Center on the map of Irish Film screenings, a few of the films will even be the premiers in the US and or the Midwest including Front Line, Dot.Com, and Garage.

The CIFF brings much needed business and publicity to the Beverly Art Center, which is a non-for-profit state of the art multi-disciplinary cultural center. Many companies including Bushmills, Baileys, and Guiness sponsor the fest and also home of the Chicago White Sox, US Cellular Field. Because of the importance of the festival, the Beverly Art Center has also snagged the Special Honoree title in the neighborhood St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which brings in hundreds of thousands of people to the south side of Chicago. Special guests of the CIFF this year include musician and film director Nick Kelly, The Cloonans a 3rd generation Irish family band, and film directors Ross Whitaker and James Kelly.

The Chicago Irish Film Festival has grown so much since its first festival in 2000, and it does not show any signs of slowing down. Thanks to Jude Blackburn and many volunteers at the Beverly Art Center who work wonders to put this thing together, the predominantly Irish Catholic neighborhood has a world class festival to be very proud of!

(The photographs feature festival director Jude Blackburn, film director James Kelly, and myself)